LAFAYETTE, La. — Ask not what your favorite bar can do for you — ask what you can do for your favorite bar.
This week could prove critical to bars across Lafayette Parish as the local COVID-19 positivity rate rocketed above the 5% threshold that allowed bars to reopen in September to 10.1% as of Nov. 18, up from 4.7% the week before.
That means unless the parish's positivity rate drops back below 10% for the week that ended Nov. 18, bars in Lafayette Parish will be legally required to close for the first time in months under Gov. John Bel Edwards' Phase 3 COVID-19 guidelines.
That determination will be made next Wednesday, Nov. 25, by Louisiana's Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, which monitors COVID-19 positivity rates across the state to determine which parishes bars are allowed to operate in.
After two consecutive weeks with positivity rates over 10%, a parish's bars can be required to halt onsite consumption by ATC under the governor's orders. Four parishes have already regressed to that point as of Nov. 18. Those are Concordia, Ascension, Evangeline and West Baton Rouge parishes.
Mayor-President Josh Guillory called the increase in positivity alarming and encouraged the parish's residents to better adhere to mitigation measures like mask wearing, social distancing and good hand hygiene, particulary as the holiday season approaches.
"I saw the same positivity rate that you saw, and it's alarming to me. I think it should be alarming to everybody. With the holidays coming up, let's bee smart. Wash your hands. If you can't social distance, wear a mask. We can all do better," Guillory said.
"I want to encourage everybody to use common sense. This is a serious deal. And I stand by what I said; the No. 1 line of defense is me and you. Personal responsibility is going to trump anything that I can do with an executive order."
Lafayette Parish and the rest of Acadiana have been in the early stages of a third COVID-19 surge for roughly three weeks after a prolonged plateau in new cases in the region.
As the country has dealt with the fastest national spread of the virus yet over the past two weeks, Acadiana has started to show signs of a coming surge.
As those signs have emerged, Regional Medical Director Dr. Tina Stefanski has warned that unless residents recommit to mitigation measures like social distancing, mask wearing and good hand hygiene, the region could be swept into a third COVID-19 wave this fall.
"Our plea to the public is to take this seriously because lives are at stake, the health of our economy is at stake and the vitality of our healthcare system," Stefanski said at a press briefing last week.
Last week, the region saw its average number of new cases reported each day spike by 146% to the fastest rate of growth since early August, when Acadiana was coming down from a major second COVID-19 wave this summer.
As of Nov. 13, Acadiana has reported a combined 29,212 cases, most of which were reported months ago and are presumed inactive.
From mid-September until late October, new cases in the region roughly followed a flat plateau, with Acadiana adding between 50 and 60 new cases a day on average, but in recent weeks new cases have trended up, with last week averaging 236 new cases a day.